About the course
This one-year course has an orientation towards the interpretation of quantitative, epidemiological data, reflecting the strengths of Imperial College, but nevertheless also explores the cultural, economic, geographical and social processes and contexts which influence health outcomes and the practice of medicine across the world.
The course comprises a two-week introductory foundation course followed by three 5-week taught modules, and subsequently either a research project or a specialist course (two 5-week modules) depending on each student’s preference.
Students' also have the opportunity to be nominated for two prizes at the end of the academic year; the Julia Buckingham Prize will be awarded to the best performing student on the course and The School of Public Health Project Prize is awarded to the student with the highest scoring project. Find out more about what the course involves and how you can apply, in the information provided below:
Module one | Infectious Diseases
Infectious Diseases: New and old - Major Threats, Transmission, Molecular Epidemiology, Control
This module will provide a broad overview of the challenge posed by infectious diseases to global health. Formal teaching will cover the major diseases faced by the global health community, disease burden and approaches to the control of disease. The course will be structured around different modes of disease transmission to link more clearly with areas of environmental health and health policy later in the course.
Global burden and surveillance of infectious disease, including methods for describing and comparing; emerging infectious disease, introduction to modelling, vaccination, antibiotic resistance; control of schistosomiasis and other neglected tropical diseases: experience of the SCI; current topics in HIV, TB and malaria; anthropology; STI, migration and health; refugees and migrants.
There will be two in course assessments within module 1 as outlined below:
Essay on global health topic:Students will be provided with an essay title before the end of the first week of the module. The title will be chosen to reflect a major issue on the control of infectious diseases and give the students the opportunity to draw in information from a range of sources, not just taught material in the course. One of the key learning objectives of setting an essay is to give students practice at essay writing, with essays forming a key part of the final examination.
Critical appraisal of papers:There will be a taught session within the module on how to approach critical appraisal of a new paper in a structured way. The second in course assessment will be a critical appraisal project. Candidates will be presented with the first half of a paper including introduction, methods and results. They will be asked to interpret the data and write a brief discussion on the findings. This will provide some preparation for the final exam which has a data handling question.
Module two | Non-Infectious Diseases
Non-Infections Diseases: The Challenges of New Epidemics - Obesity, Diabetes, Tobacco and Environmental Hazards; from Discovery of Causes to Governance
Most topics will be treated according to the following scheme: introductory lecture, reading of one paper and discussion in a seminar, methodological practical session on study design and statistical approach. Key articles from journals and books will be discussed in seminars, which involve some group work. The practicals will also allow you to explore issues in more depth; find and assess evidence; and practice data handling.
Global burden of non-infectious diseases, including methods for describing and comparing; descriptive epidemiology by geographic area; ethnicity; rates in migrants; trends; the epidemics of obesity and diabetes nutritional epidemiology and the metabolic syndrome; malnutrition; tobacco-related diseases and tobacco control; environmental exposures in developed and developing countries; climate change and its effects on health; adaptation to climate change; the interplay between genes and the environment; preventive strategies and policies.
There will be two in course assessments within module 2 as outlined below.
Short essay on country health profile:Students should individually submit online an independent written essay on the country profile of their choice. Country profiles refer to the main health indicators for a country, or a more specific topic such as recent changes in disease rates, or peculiarities in disease occurrence (e.g. obesity in Tonga). Essays should be no more than 2500 words; penalties will be applied for longer texts.
Data interpretation exercise:Each student will receive a simple set of data and they will be required to describe and interpret them in a written form.
Module three | Global Health in Context
Global Health in Context: Poverty, Development and Governance
Contemporary issues and controversies in global health, including governance and the role of different actors, will be covered. This will include the roles of health policy analysis, power and values in global health governance, as well as tools used to assess health needs.
The Primary Health care approach; the components, aims and functions of a health system; using evidence for health and health system policy including in resource-poor settings (demographic, developmental, economic, cultural, political and organisational); access to health care and the implications for policy, with reference to different financing mechanisms; the eco-social approach to determinants of health; technologies for advances in Global Health; inter-sectoral collaboration for Global health advances; aid effectiveness; providing healthcare to vulnerable populations; critically appraising systematic reviews relevant to Global Health
There are two in course assessments within module 3 as outlined below:
Essay:Involves students producing a commentary on a global health policy issue.
Data interpretation exercise:In-class test during which students will be given an unseen Systematic Review. The CASP Review Checklist will be given as a structure to answer questions relating to the critical appraisal of this paper.
Why should you choose this course?
Many graduates from the programme take the course simply out of an interest in global health issues, but nevertheless, pursue mainstream medical careers such as general practice or typical biomedical science careers such as laboratory haematology. There are a number of graduates from the course who go on to pursue careers in global health such as academic research.
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the course look like?
Course starts in the last week of September
|Part A||Introduction module (2 weeks)||An introduction to definitions of Global Health, major disciplines contributing to the scholarship of Global Health and an introduction to Research Methods.|
Module 1: Infection diseases old and new
|An introduction to the major infectious diseases that contribute to the global burden of disease, how we measure this burden, the determinants of disease and approaches to control. The module looks at one mode of transmission per week (e.g. vector-borne diseases). The module also covers broader aspects e.g. access to drugs and intellectual property, the ethics of international trials and health system issues.|
|Module 2: The burden of chronic diseases
|An introduction to non-communicable diseases, focusing around weekly themes: Introduction; Nutrition, Food Politics and Disease; Life-Course Epidemiology and the Environment; Climate Change and Health. The module covers the epidemiology, social determinants and international public health approaches to new “epidemics” of non-communicable diseases, trade in goods and health, climate change and policy.|
|Module 3: Global health in context
|An overview of themes and disciplinary approaches that complement Modules 1 and 2: Global Health Governance (which actors make up Global Health? How does policy happen?); Health Systems; Technology and Access (what do existing and new technologies mean for Global Health? Who can access them and who is prevented from accessing them? How do they affect inequalities?); Social Determinants of Health (including global poverty and international development approaches to why poverty exists).|
|Part C||BSc project or specialist course||Applications for BSc Project vs. Specialist Course happen in advance of the start of the course. More details about Part C below. BSc project allocations happen in November (for allocation criteria see FAQs).|
Course ends in June
Who is the course for?
We welcome applications from the following students:
- Medical students (Imperial College Year 4 or external medical students in 3rd year or above)
- Biomedical Sciences students in their 3rd year of study
- Students from other relevant disciplines (dentistry, veterinary science or other)
How big is the class?
We have between 30 and 40 students a year.
Where is teaching based?
Nearly all sessions are based at the Medical School Building on St Mary's campus (Paddington).
How many external places are available?
For 2016-17, there were 10 external places. We usually have applicants:places ratio of 1.5:2.5. Applicants are selected based on five areas: academic performance, interest in global health, research experience, academic reference and transferrable skills.
How is teaching delivered?
We use a mixture of lectures, seminars and practicals. Seminars give students a chance to go further into an aspect of the lecture material. They involve a range of interactive teaching methods including small group discussion, group presentations, debates, film screening etc.
We encourage students to become active learners and expect that they come prepared having read an essential reading for each session in advance, being able to ask critical questions and taking part in discussions.
We also run fortnightly small group tutorials which provide a supportive space for students to discuss any reflections or ideas that may come up throughout the course of the year. The role of tutorials is mostly of pastoral support though they inevitably touch on course issues as learning about Global Health has been described as a transformative process and tutorials provide an often useful space for students to debrief and share reflections.
What does a typical week of teaching look like
Each part B module comprises of 4-5 weekly themes:
- Food and water-borne infectious diseases
- Airborne infectious diseases
- Vector-borne diseases
- Sexually transmitted
- Blood-borne infectious diseases
- Introduction to Global Non-Communicable Diseases
- Nutrition, food politics and disease
- Life-course epidemiology
- Environmental exposures
- Climate change and health
- Global health governances
- Health systems
- Technology and access
- Social determinants of health
As the taught component of the course (Parts A and B) takes place over 17 weeks, this is a fairly busy period. A typical week will comprise 3 or 4 full days (9.30-4.00) of teaching. Wednesday afternoons are always kept free for sports and we try and keep an additional half a day to a day free for reading or preparing assessments or just general life activities!
A typical week will also comprise of lectures from different “disciplines”: e.g. a week on HIV includes the epidemiology of HIV, innovations in treatment, the ethics of international HIV trials, Stigma and HIV and the history of civil society’s role in promoting access to treatment.
Will a Global Health BSc help my career?
Global Health is an area of scholarship and practice that has become increasingly recognised over the last decade. Students on the course gain a solid grounding in the International Public Health approaches to Global Health and an introduction to the range of disciplines that contribute to the scholarship. They also gain transferable skills including research skills and critical thinking skills. However, we hope that the course provides most of all an opportunity to learn about an important area of study.
Our students tell us that they enjoy the course and a common comment is that the course opens their minds. Often students feel motivated to act and engage further in Global Health research and advocacy.
Our alumni go on to a range of training and work positions:
- Clinical Medicine: many of our medical alumni go on to become doctors with a Global Health related academic research portfolio
- International public health academia (e.g. through a Masters and PhD)
- Positions in Ministries of Health, think tanks and the private sector
Who teaches on the course?
Dr Mariam Sbaiti is course coordinator and lead for Module 3.
The course also includes a wide range of other teachers such as colleagues from the Departments of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Global Health Innovation, Centre for Health Policy, academics from other institutions and partners from civil society organisations (including Doctors of the World and Médecins Sans Frontières). We also involve alumni in our teaching.
Is there a lot of reading to do on the course?
The course requires students to do more reading than is generally required in their previous undergraduate years. The reading is intended to feed into seminars and other interactive sessions. As part of learning natural and social sciences and developing critical thinking skills, we encourage students to read critically and strategically. A minority of students take a bit of time to adjust to the volumes of reading however most find it very rewarding to learn to read in a different way.
How is the course assessed?
The course components contribute different proportions to the final degree mark (Imperial College students have a component of marks carried over from previous years for the final year 4 mark).
|Course part||Contribution to overall mark|
|Part A - Introductory module||Pass/Fail|
|Part B - Modules 1, 2 and 3||
60% of year 4 mark (each module accounts for 20%)
|Part C - Project/Specialist Course||40% of year 4 mark|
In Part B, each Module includes 2 in-course assessments (ICAs):
- an 2500 word essay
- a critical appraisal or data interpretation in-class test relevant to the Module (e.g. critically appraising a RCT for Module 1, a data interpretation of observational data for Module 2, and a critical appraisal of a Systematic Review in Module 3)
These prepare students for the final Module paper which reflects the format of the 2 respective ICAs above.
How does this course differ from others around the country?
The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in Global/International Health BSc courses similar to this one around the country. This was the result of successful advocacy by students, student organisations such as MEDSIN and supportive academics around the country to include global health in the undergraduate curriculum.
Global/International Health BSc courses vary in their focus and disciplinary approaches and this is partly dependent on the departments involved in teaching. Some have a stronger international Development component whilst others focus more on Humanitarian/Health System themes. This also highlights the varied understandings of Global Health as a discipline.
The BSc at Imperial College is based in the School of Public Health. One of its strengths is its orientation towards research skills. Students are taught by world-leading researchers in international public health and epidemiology and are introduced to basic research methods in the Introductory Module, as part of the “politics of evidence” theme. Research Methods are further developed in Modules 1-3 through the relative Critical Appraisal/Data Interpretation In-course assessment. These help students develop an ability to read a paper and critically appraise it in the context of Global Health.
For students who wish to take this further, BSC projects are an important opportunity to work with a research team in close supervision. The course also explores the anthropological, sociological, economic, and geographical perspectives in Global Health.
What does part C involve?
Students can choose to do a BSc project or a specialist taught course (Death Autopsy and the Law OR Medical Humanities). We recommend both specialist courses as high quality learning opportunities which are both relevant to Global Health.
The Global Health BSc projects are an option for students who would like to further their research skills. Projects are an attractive part of the course for many students because they provide an opportunity for high quality research experience by positioning students within the research teams of what is an active and research intensive environment.
How do BSc projects work?
We offer a wide range of BSc Projects. Some are London-based and focus on primary or secondary analyses pf existing datasets. Others involve systematic reviews for public health, with international relevance. Others yet involve the use of qualitative methods to address questions in health systems, technology or other relevant fields.
Every year we offer 2-5 fully funded projects abroad. These give students an opportunity to work on a placement carrying out a project at an overseas institution such as the World Health Organization or the Global Fund, or conducting fieldwork abroad in a low-to-middle income country (see examples provided). Past projects have included students going to ICDDR-B Bangladesh for projects related to climate change and health.
The allocation process: Students are offered a list of projects in November and are required to apply for their top 6 choices. We allocate students to projects/supervisors aiming to accommodate everyone’s preferences. When more than one student applies to a project, in-course assessment marks (from the BSc year) and the application statement for the particular project are taken into account in the allocation. See below for students wanting to set up their own BSc project.
Some examples of past projects are below:
Minimum target prices for production of direct-acting antivirals and associated diagnostics to combat hepatitis C virus. For her BSc project, our alumnus Nikolien Van de Ven worked with our colleagues at the London Headquarters of Médecins Sans Frontières, calculating the minimum possible costs of DAAs treatment and diagnostic tools – these have the potential to reduce a significant proportion of the burden of disease associated with Hepatitis C globally but continue to be produced at prohibitive rates. The project exposed the feasibility of affordable drug production.
Ethnic variation in cancer patients' ratings of information provision, communication and overall care. For her BSc project, our alumnus Lorna Trenchard analysed data from the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey and her analysis outlined inequalities in cancer care amongst ethnic groups in the way that patients are given information and experience communication.
Sea-level Rise in Bangladesh. In 2015 Zeina Fakhereddin and Jake Levi conducted fieldwork in coastal Bangladesh relating to their respective projects, “Climate change in Bangladesh: implications for health” and “The wider health impacts of climate change related salinization in littoral Bangladesh: An analysis towards a causal social-health framework”, both of which examined the impact of sea-level rise upon health outcomes in the region.
Can I set up my own BSc project?
Students may set up their own project but they are required to have an Imperial College supervisor and the project needs to be approved by course directors. Students interested in this need to contact the course coordinator during the summer.